The 2016 New York Yankees season left a weird taste in the mouths of the fans and not many knew what to expect from the 2017 season. The team was technically labeled as 'rebulding', but finished six games over .500 (84-78). Over the past couple years, the American League East has been one of the most heavily competitive divisions, and the Yankees are looking to change the scenery and get back to their division leading days of years prior.
Starting the season on the road, the Bombers opened-up against the Tampa Bay Rays, then headed to Baltimore to finish the opening-up road stand 2-4 heading back to the Bronx. Since being back home, the Yankees have caught fire, much thanks to their unexpected hero so far, Chase Headley. Headley, 32, who currently has a .395 batting average and an MLB-leading .509 on-base percentage, is the foundation of the Yankees lineup. Starlin Castro has also been a very good acquisition for the franchise. Since being traded for last season, Castro has been one of the more consistent players so far in 2017, being a solid bat in the early half of the lineup and being solid in the field. Castro and Headley are now a couple of the Yankees veterans, and good examples for the young developing players to look to.
A breath of fresh air for Yankee fans is that the lineup is no longer packed with veterans. There is now something that feels different looking at this Yankees roster, a different type of atmosphere than years past. The club no longer has the resemblance of a team that’s in a ‘Just for Men’ facial hair advertisement similar to what it had over the past half-decade or so. With players past their primes such as Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, and Brian McCann no longer eating up at bats, it has given the opportunity for younger players to get time at the big-league level.
Aaron Judge, known last year for his towering shots he hit when he was called up towards the tail end of the season, already has four home runs and has established his spot in the middle of the lineup. Judge, who turns 25 on April 26, will be a major factor for this lineup if he is able to get himself into good counts and keep his strikeouts down.
Greg Bird is another familiar face that is going to be a core piece for years to come. After having a solid 2015 rookie campaign, he was sidelined the entire 2016 season with a torn labrum. Following an early struggle to his season, Bird is going to be a key factor if the Yankees are to continue this success. The breakout star of the late second half of last year Gary Sanchez, who although is currently sidelined for about three more weeks, is going to be a key aspect of the Yankees lineup if they are to continue to stay in the hunt for the AL East crown.
The Pinstripes had some uncertainty going into this season with their rotation. Masahiro Tanaka is not providing that ace-presence that the organization may thought they were getting heading into 2014. An aging CC Sabathia is going to be one of the anchors of the staff this year. One of the keys to the Yankees current eight-game winning streak has been Michael Pineda, who has been living up to what people thought he could be with his top of the rotation type of stuff. So far in 2017, Pineda has been nothing short of excellent. In 18 1/3 innings, Pineda has amassed 23 strikeouts and holds onto a stellar 0.927 WHIP. He’s walked just one batter in that span.
With the bullpen the Yankees had going into the 2016 season, most fans after seeing the list of personnel in the Yankees bullpen this year, would not think it would nearly come close to stacking up against it, but it has. At the end of last season the Yankees got Adam Warren back who was involved in the Starlin Castro trade before the season. He had just as good of stats as Chapman and Andrew Miller, and he has carried that into this season. Warren and Chapman have been a dominant part of the Yankees staff. Through 13 games, the Yankees bullpen has a combined ERA of 1.38, which without a doubt is a major factor of this winning streak. With the starting pitchers not going as far into games early in the season, the Yankees bullpen has handled themselves with pure class.
Brian Cashman must be very happy at the moment with the success of the team so far after a change of pace to the Yankees offseason where money wasn’t being thrown around like in years past. He utilized the players he knew he could get a good return on last year and now has made a top 3 farm system in the MLB/MiLB. With the success happening at the Major League level, he now has options if success was to continue with the depth he has in the minor leagues. Whether it be bringing up one of his top prospects, or even turn them into trade bait towards the deadline for a pitcher to help solidify their somewhat shaky rotation. With all that being said, the Yankees for sure do not want to leave the Bronx anytime soon, looking to continue this eight-game home winning when they close out the current series against the Chicago White Sox. It will be interesting to see if the mix of youth and veteran leadership in that Yankee clubhouse will be able to continue the success for a possible playoff run in 2017 after missing the playoffs last season.